Kaikohe youth space aims to reduce suicide rate

By Heeni Brown
  • Northland

The community of Kaikohe has opened up a new space that will support youth aged between 12 and 24 in an attempt to help prevent suicide in Northland.

Te Kōtahitanga e Mahi Kaha Trust Chair Aroha Tahere says, "Youth in Kaikohe told us they want this space to be fun, cool, friendly and safe. That's why they're actively involved in designing what the space will look like, the activities, resources and support available and even the list of personal qualities they want for kaimahi (youth centre staff)."

Te Uma o Te Kona or translated 'The Bosom of Te Kona' is an acknowledgement to historic Ngāpuhi leader Hone Heke's mother, Te Kona. 

The leaders of the new initiative hope the characteristics of Te Kona's maternal nature will provide safety for youth and play a part in solving issues like suicide. 

Aroha Tahere says, "Our focus is that prevention. Early intervention will provide a process whereby we are able to intervene a lot earlier without the kids taking on board that serious stuff. So our job will be the early intervention prevention space."

Kaikohe youth Temepara Hita says, "Maybe this new centre will help change people's negative thoughts into positive ones. We have a pool table and those sorts of games here and maybe that will help change that way of thinking." 

For the last nine years, Northland has had total of 193 suicides. 52 of those were youth aged 10-24 with 2013 having the highest annual rate at 29 suicides. 
 
Also bringing their solutions to the issue are those running in the race for the Te Tai Tokerau electorate.

Labour deputy leader and candidate for Te Tai Tokerau Kelvin Davis says, "First of all, Labour's policy will help those families in need by giving them a weekly subsidy and second of our policies we have to offer is funding nursing in school to help better provide services for youth."  

Mana candidate for Te Tai Tokerau Hone Harawira says, "He supports Mike King's approach because he travels all over New Zealand and talks about suicide."

The Te Uma o Te Kona is a collaboration between the local community, iwi and regional organisations, which includes the Kaikohe Community and Youth Centre Trust, Te Rūnanga ā Iwi o Ngāpuhi, the Northland Social Wellbeing Governance Group's Place Based Initiatives (Kāinga Ora) and the government's Regional Growth Programme.